The smell of Christmas – alternatives to scented candles

Scent is so important to create that super cosy Christmas vibe. I love a gorgeous candle and am always thrilled to receive one as a gift, but there are other ways to achieve a homely, warm fragrance of citrus and spices using things from the kitchen cupboards. As a bonus you don’t have to worry about the potential negative effects of candles which often use artificial fragrance oils and paraffin wax which releases toxic particles into the air when burned. And you will save some money too. Here are some lovely alternative ways to enjoy the scent of Christmas.


Such a great way to get a gorgeous scent that spreads throughout the house in no time. A simmer pot is simply a pan left to gently bubble away on the cooker with some water and whichever spices you like. My top recipe so far is this: half an orange, one cinnamon stick, 8 cloves, 1 star anise, 3 cardamom pods and a tiny bit of vanilla pod. This smells almost exactly like my favourite Winter candle from The White Company. Make sure to keep an eye on the pan and top up the water when it runs low. Now that I have been working at home so much I’ve had one of these on the go all day – it’s the best. Thank you Johanna Bradford for this amazing tip!


For subtle fragrance I like to put a few drops of essential oil on a napkin or tissue and place it on or near a radiator. It’s great to use spicy scents like Frankincense, Nutmeg and Cinnamon at this time of year. For our bedroom my favourite combo is Lavender and Eucalyptus, a few drops of each – so calming and fresh. A few extra drops of Lavender on the pillow before going to bed makes that moment something to look forward to all day.


Candles are amazing for that instant guaranteed aroma but I think sometimes more subtle, fleeting natural scents are even lovelier. Perhaps it is time to learn to appreciate these natural aromas again. Hyacinth is my number Christmas fragrance – the moment I get the first sniff of one of these blooms I’m transported back to childhood, remembering pre-Christmas visits with my mum to the local plant nursery to buy Pointsettias and Hyacinths. The smell in there… incredible. Of course you can buy Hyacinths as cut flowers but I think the way to do it is getting potted bulbs. Choose ones with a little bit of bud showing but not yet any colour, then wait and watch them grow and open up over a week or so before you savour the moment when the first scent is released. Blue Hyacinths have the strongest fragrance so I try to get those if I can. Classic pomanders are also nice, we always used to make these when I was a girl and hang them up in the kitchen window with some red ribbon. They will not perfume a whole room, but as you walk past you will get a hit of citrus and warmth. Lovely.

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